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Smoking: Good For Your Business' Health

Nov 29, 2007
So, whether you love or hate the UK's smoking ban, it seems to have stuck, and the majority of the country seems to be in favour. Sorry smokers, but the smoking ban isn't going away anytime soon. But the cloud of thick smoke hanging above office entrances around the country does have a faint silver lining to it - it opens the door for some excellent social opportunities! The exile of smokers has led to a sense of solidarity and joint state of exclusion that is the perfect breeding ground for friendship and business networking!

If you are based in a large office block like ours, the chances are you will not have met the majority of your neighbors. If you can't meet them, then it's impossible to get your foot in the door and make business allies. Fortunately, there seems to be at least one smoker in every office in the country, and as the hourly cigarette ritual occurs, the chances of meeting others is far greater now they are all forced outside. The smoking chats are ideal business networking opportunities.

Assuming you do manage to meet someone who should be interested in using your services huddled in the cold smoking chat outside your office, what should you do to ensure you grab their attention? Here are 5 top tips to business networking which should supplement their nicotine craving with a desire to become your customers:

1) Find a natural opening

This is the beauty of the UK smoking ban. If you are both outside puffing on a cigarette then you have at least one thing in common - thus sidestepping the most awkward part of business networking at conferences. Combine this with the fact you both most likely work in the same building and you're away with a natural opening!

2) Have your business' introduction primed and waiting

If you get the smoking chat going, it's only a matter of time before your job and company come into discussion. "So what do you do?" is something of a staple inquiry in the small talk arena and it's a golden opportunity for you. Be succinct and interesting - the more long winded you are, the longer delay before your next nicotine fix! If you get a 'tell me more' or some follow up questions, you know you've succeeded and the business networking can begin in earnest.

3) Be enthusiastic and positive about your business

Sure, nobody is thrilled to be talking about their job all the time, but your (long-term) aim here is to sell. If you don't sound interested, positive and confident about what you do, then there's no reason for them to follow up with questions and ultimately business inquiries. This should all be part of your business networking preparation to make the talk engaging, however when you do deliver your spiel, be sure to speak clearly and sound as keen as it's natural to do so, without being off-putting!

4) Listen carefully

You know those gaps in your smoking chat where the other person is talking? Make sure you listen carefully and aren't thinking about what to say next or anxiously reading the side-of-packet health warning! This is foremost a relationship, and you can't maintain one effectively if you aren't listening to them properly. Also, they may mention something which you can bring up again later, either to prove you were listening or to link your business to theirs. Ignore this one at your peril.

5) Remember to follow up

This is crucial. If you make a contact who wants to hear more about your business, don't let the opportunity slip away. If you promise to send over more details about your products and services, be sure to do it as soon as you return from your smoking chat. If you say you'll drop by their office to discuss things further, make sure you get around to it, otherwise your future smoking chats will be awkward and you will have lost a valuable business associate. They say smoking kills, but not following up your smoking chat will kill your new friend's interest far quicker!

Not every smoker you meet will make an ideal business networking partner of course, but the time spent pandering to your addiction is far more valuable if you manage to get extra custom for your business in the process. Hey, the extra business you drum up may mean it's actually more costly to give up your smoking habit!
About the Author
Iain Mackintosh is the managing director of Simply-Docs. The firm provides over 1100 legal documents and templates covering all aspects of business from maternity leave laws to contracts of employment.
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